I don’t want to see us fall into a false sense of security by thinking that we will be OK without both of our main strikers for any period of time.
Wednesday night was fantastic and was arguably the best I’ve ever seen us play, but Reading didn’t press, sat in with five at the back even at 1-0 down, and had three centre halves marking Alex Pritchard.
That allowed us the time and space to be more creative and knock the ball around, and enables us to play in a way that didn’t require a striker. Other teams aren’t going to do that and will realise that without a recognised striker, they can be a bit more positive in their pressing, restricting our time and space.
That will lead to more high balls and balls into the channels, where we will notice a difference and really miss not having Ross Stewart or Ellis Simms up there.
I’m revelling in that scintillating performance, but I’m just as worried about the prospect of having no strikers for a time.
Kevin Barker says…
I’m still buzzing!
What had been a scrappy game was turned on its head and became the Sunderland show after Ellis Simms had to go off.
With both Simms and Ross Stewart fit, we can cause teams problems and together, they cause havoc. Stewart can play as a lone striker and bring others into the game but Simms is still learning and often struggles with his hold-up play.
Wednesday night showed the quality we have in midfield and wide areas, and when it clicks it’s a joy to watch, with some great passing, interplay and final product.
If Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke can keep providing the goal threat and we slowly introduce the new lads, we can expect to pick up points without our two target men. The defence needs a mention as they provided the platform, and Luke O’Nien again and Aji Alese in particular had excellent games.
Bring on Watford!
Kyle Garrett says…
I think it depends on the opponent.
We found it quite easy to play through Reading’s defence - summed up by the unbelievable third goal. In some games, however, we are going to be under the cosh and will need an outlet up front to target.
I worry that if we’re without Simms for an extended period, we’ll struggle to change the direction of a game.
Having said that, the game at Reading proved we’re capable of scoring goals without a striker, and if we are to be without a striker, we know we have goals on the pitch.
Andrew Smithson says…
Any long-term injury to Ellis Simms would not be ideal, and playing without a traditional focal point up top can make it hard during situations when we are under pressure and need to clear our lines to stop the ball coming straight back at us.
Sunderland can still provide a threat though, and against Reading we showed that when the play is on the deck and we are working up through the pitch, we are hard to pin down. Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke took their goals very well, but the build-up play to get there in the first place was superb.
Having spent time on the bench this season, Roberts in particular will now see this as a real opportunity.
He was fantastic at Wembley and hopefully has the confidence again to continue to rebuild his career, whilst we’ve also seen that there are other options behind him that are as equally keen to work and take any chance they get to impress.
Amad Diallo and Jewison Bennette, for example, both looked handy on Wednesday night but there are suggestions too that Max Thompson may be ready to step up soon. I’ve only seen him play in the flesh once so far but he seems to be making a good go of it with the U21s, and this could be the opening he needs to move up a level.
Those inside the club will have a better idea on that but the general mood around the squad and staff seems good.
Rather than use possible layoffs for both our senior centre forwards as an excuse, the team has responded well, and I get the impression Tony Mowbray and Mark Venus know the game well enough to be able to find a system that suits those available.
Martin Wanless says...
Playing the way we did against Reading is one thing, but continuing it is another.
We caught them by surprise a couple of times on Wednesday- initially with our formation change and also with how we approached things after Simms went off.
We played brilliantly well after that. We were structured and solid when we needed to be, and at other times we played with such freedom that it was a joy to watch.
I’ve been a big fan of Patrick Roberts during his time here, and have been surprised he hasn’t been more involved to date, but what an impact he made on Wednesday when he was played in his actual position.
Elliot Embleton played well, Alex Pritchard did a very passable impression of Eric Gates, and Jack Clarke was dangerous, too.
I’ve said a few times on our podcast that it’s clear this squad has been built for playing with wide attackers – you don’t spend serious amounts of money on Roberts, Clarke, Bennette etc if they aren’t going to play with wingers. These lads are going to have to earn their money over the coming weeks.
Of course, we’re going to miss Ross Stewart particularly, as well as Simms if he’s out for any length of time. We’d be far stronger with them in the side, but the saving grace is that we do have goalscorers in the team. Yes, there’s going to be more onus on Pritchard, Clarke and Roberts to score, but that could be a good thing in the longer term, too.
I’m on the fence with how we’ll cope, to be honest.
As mentioned earlier, we took Reading by surprise, but other teams will cotton on to how we need to play now. Secondly, we won the game on Wednesday by exploiting the space left by Reading and countering. We won’t get that chance too much in home games, and that could be a concern.
Who knows? It could be the dawn of a bright new non-striker era at Sunderland. But probably not.